Remember that ‘foul dust’ line in The Great Gatsby?
Nick Carroway, the novel’s narrator is musing on the
sad fate of his friend. “Gatsby turned
out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated
in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the
abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.”
The quote came to mind when I read about the death of
Whitney Houston. It had also occurred to
me when Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse died in similar sordid circumstances.
The foul dust that floated in their wakes when they
were alive became the foul dust attending their wakes after they had expired
from inhaling it – at times literally inhaling it.
The foul dust is ever present in such cases. It coalesces into what the papers call an
‘entourage’, its individual components usually referred to as minders.
Some minders! The only thing they seem to have minded in
minding Houston, Jackson and Winehouse was making sure that their employers were
supplied with enough crack cocaine or prescription drugs, or whatever the junk
of choice, to enable them to sink into a stupour, surely recognizing that each
collapse was potentially lethal. Some
of these so-called minders were actually doctors, practicing what can only be described
as the hypocritical oath.
Faceless and nameless shadows, the minders invariably
escape notoriety or legal retribution.
It is a sordid profession but doubtless a lucrative one, and demand is
evidently brisk; having just assisted in the killing of one troubled celebrity,
minders can presumably, by picking up the telephone, move on to the next one.
The foul dust often envelops the victim’s spouse or
domestic partner. Winehouse was attended
most of the time by an equally brain-fried boyfriend. Houston
was married for fifteen years to Bobby Brown, a soul-singer himself, when he
wasn’t talking his wife into sharing a line, or a spoon, or whatever it was
they liked to ingest together after a hard day at the recording studio.
first met Brown she was attractive, famous, hugely successful, and apparently
‘clean’, if not quite squeaky. He
spotted her potential immediately. By
the time the marriage ended she was a physical wreck, gaunt, shrivelled almost
beyond recognition, and stony broke.
Brown wailed on stage when he heard the news of her death but struggled
to complete his concert.
What a player, what a man.
What a monster.
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